Dr. Carlos Munoz, Jr. UC Berkeley Chicano/Latino Graduation Speech
Carlos Munoz, Jr. Keynote Speech
Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley
May 20, 2006
It's a pleasure and an honor for me to be here with you to celebrate your graduation. You have been blessed with the intelligence, the love of familia, friends, and community. Most of all, you have been blessed with the work ethic of your parents and the legacies of struggle waged by our ancestors.
You came here prepared to work hard in your studies and to survive whatever obstacles were placed in your path. It was not easy, but you have persevered. You have every right to feel extremely proud of yourself. I know your parents are. And so are those who love you.
Some of you are immigrants. Others of you, like me, are children of immigrants. In particular, children of poor working class immigrants. Like me, some of you are the first in your families to graduate from college. No doubt some of you never thought it possible to get a college education. I remember that my immigrant father simply wanted me to finish high school!
Thanks to the Chicano/Chicana Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and in particular to the student activists of that generation who struggled to open the doors to these previously all white institutions, you are here tonight. In particular, if it were not for the 1969 "Third World Strike" that was organized by Chicano/Chicana and other students of color, I and the rest of the Latino faculty and staff on this stage, would also not be here tonight.
In the process of working and studying hard to get the knowledge you now have, you have also become more critically aware of the harsh realities and tragedies that regretfully exist throughout our nation and the world at large.
You witnessed the terrorism of 9/11. And more tragically, the even more tragic response by the President and the Congress to wage a war of destruction against a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with 9/11. The war in Iraq has taken its toll of thousands of Iraqi innocent lives. Hundreds of lives of U.S. soldiers, including young Latino and Latina soldiers, your age, or younger, have also died and continue to die today in the streets of Iraq. They should have been here or at another university instead of the streets of Iraq where they met their death.
You have also witnessed another kind of war here at home. It is the war waged against hard working Latino undocumented immigrants and their familias who everyday contribute to the U.S. culture and the economy. At the time when Latino blood is being spilled in the battle fields of Iraq, the Republican controlled House of Representatives wants to criminalize them by making it a felony crime for entering the U.S. without papers. That is what the Sensenbrenner Bill (HR 4437) is all about.
Latino undocumented workers have courageously come out of the shadows by the millions to make clear they, like everyone else, deserves equality and human rights. Their struggle has generated a passion for social justice throughout the nation that has not happened since the 1960s when the farm worker movement led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. And the Black and Chicano Civil Rights movements, and the anti-Vietnam War made a similar impact.
I am extremely proud of those of you graduating tonight who have joined me in taking a strong stance against the injustice of the Sensenbrenner Bill HR 4437 here on this campus and who have marched in the streets of Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, and elsewhere in solidarity with our undocumented hermanos y hermanas.
The millions of Latinos marching for immigrant
Rights in the streets of cities across this nation has
Also generated fear among those who are committed to preserving the status quo. They are the same ones who have framed Diversity as "un-American" and a source of division in our society. They are the same ones who oppose immigrant rights.
They have made Latinos the main target. For example, Samuel Huntington, a political scientist at Harvard, has argued in his writings that Latinos are the most serious threat to the White dominant culture. He fears that our nation will lose its single national language and its core WASP culture. As he put it, "In this new era, the single most immediate and most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially from Mexico."
A new Latino leadership must emerge from your ranks to take on the responsibility of developing a new politics that can build on the positives of our diversity. We need a leadership that has a vision of the future that is based on the multicultural and multiracial reality of what our nation has become. A leadership that is dedicated to the process of building bridges between all the different races and cultures.
You have proven thus far that you have the intellectual and the critical thinking capacity to become this kind of leader for the 21st century.
The task will require new vision of Democracy that must include people of all colors. We are not islands unto ourselves. Latino liberation is not possible without making possible the liberation of people of all colors, including white folks who are not part of the white supremacy structure of power.
In reality, as Latinos we represent everybody. We know we are an indigenous people. But we must also know that we are African, Asian, Middle Eastern, and European. We are Christian, but we are also Muslim and Jewish. We own the original meaning of an authentic Diversity. We are America!
I have been marching for social justice, peace, and Democracy since the 1960s. And I won't stop until the day I die. I know that your generation, and those of you in this graduating class in particular, will continue marching long after I'm gone.
I want to share my Vision for an authentic Multiracial Democracy that I have kept in mind throughout my life of struggle and activism. It is my graduation gift to you to keep in mind as you develop into our nation's leaders.
My vision is that Americans of all colors, religions, sexual preferences, men and women will give birth to an authentic Multiracial Democracy.
A Democracy that will promote a true racial and ethnic diversity and equality in everyday life.
A Democracy that honors its immigrant legacies and values as equal all immigrant workers whether they are documented or undocumented.
A Democracy that will promote social justice, religious tolerance, non-violence, and peace at home and abroad.
A Democracy with a government that will include a representative of every diverse group at the table of political power on behalf of the people, not the military-prison-corporate complex.
A Democracy with a national political multiparty electoral system where candidates for election include the poor and working class, not just those who are rich or middle class. With an electoral system where every vote will in fact be counted. No more Florida's, no more Ohio's, no more Bushes.
A Democracy where human needs are prioritized and not the needs of the rich and the corporations. Where health care and education are defined as Human Rights.
A Democracy that prioritizes youth as the most important Investment for the future of our nation and builds more schools instead of prisons.
THIS VISION WILL TAKE A LONG TIME TO MAKE COME TRUE.
But What I have learned in my lifetime is that struggle is life and life is struggle. But most importantly, that victory is in the struggle!
Congratulations to each and every one of you. Love, Peace, and Justice to you all!